I had to blog about Skype this week because it’s definitely been a week full of Skype calls. On Wednesday alone, my class had three Skype calls: one for shared reading to Mrs. Stubblefield’s class in Alabama, one to introduce ourselves to Mr. White’s class (our pen pal class from Georgia), and one to compare communities with Mrs. Soltau-Heller’s class in Northern Vancouver Island. The first and last Skype call were planned and the middle one was a surprise, but that’s fine, as it was that much more exciting.
My students love having Skype calls with other classes because it gives them the opportunity to communicate face-to-face with other students from anywhere in the world and share ideas with these students too. The video component of Skype definitely makes it more exciting for my students than Google Wave. My students are also learning some important things about communicating in an audio/video format:
1) They need to stand in front of the camera and face the camera too. This is hard because we watch the Skype calls on the SMART Board, but the webcam is on top of the computer. They want to see themselves as they talk, but if they look to the SMART Board to watch themselves, they are really showing their back or side view to the other class. I do this all the time too! I think that changing this comes with practice.
2) They need to talk in a loud, clear voice. The microphone does not pick up a whisper voice. Skype has definitely helped my students get used to talking into a microphone, but I know that some students enjoy doing this more than others. Then there’s me: apparently my voice carries enough that I don’t need a microphone.:)
3) They always need to watch how they’re sitting, what they’re doing, and what they might be saying because the Skype call is live and an audience of people is watching them. In the classroom, I’m their audience, and while I may always be watching them, they don’t always realize this. When they are watching themselves up on the SMART Board too, they quickly realize that others can see them as well.
I am so thankful for my amazing Twitter PLN (Professional Learning Network) that has helped me establish some terrific Skype contacts, so that my students can communicate with such a variety of classrooms. I will definitely continue to use Skype in the classroom this year and for many more years to come.
That being said, I know that Skype calls are far more beneficial if there are lots of opportunities for choral responses (then everyone can participate) and if they are well-planned in advance too (then the students know what to say and know what to expect). A follow-up activity also helps, as then the students are listening for facts to reflect on later. The length of the Skype call is important too. I find that anything beyond 20 minutes makes it more difficult for my students to maintain interest.
For other teachers out there using Skype, what are your thoughts on using it in the classroom? What have you done to help make Skype a great learning tool for your students? For parents out there, how do your children feel about using Skype in the classroom? What do they like? What do they wish they could change? I look forward to hearing your thoughts!
Pingback: Similarly Different: Multiculturalism | Future teacher in training: Marie's 21st century learning zone